Friday, January 1, 2010

Paired For Life? Part 2

And now for the other side...

Part 2 has taken a while to produce - the reason is that in this part I want to write about the positive side of living alone, and I haven't been feeling that positive about it, which makes it hard to write enthusiastically about! Nevertheless, I have done such a lot since I was widowed - many things through necessity, but many also because I no longer need to answer to anyone else. And that's the rub - being widowed ISN'T all bad. That knowledge brings with it a whole new bundle of guilt, but that's another post.

Where to start - well, I've just moved house, let's start there. For the first time in my life, I have chosen a house just for me, no compromises, no negotiations, and I've arranged it the way I want, and that is completely new for me. It's a funny thing to think that my student son has had more independence in his few years since leaving home than I have in my fifty years. In fact, I sometimes feel as though I am just starting out on on my life as an adult. I went straight from parental home to married home and never even went through the student-flat phase, as I lived at home when I was at University.

And settling in to this house HAS been an adventure. I've arranged things the way I want, got rid of all sorts of baggage, literal and emotional and, for the first time, I feel that I am in a house that reflects my personality. That can't be a bad thing.

Moving house has been a big thing but life alone is filled with hundreds of little delights, from having your bedroom at the temperature that suits you, to eating what and when you like.

And with the new year, another good thing about being alone occurs to me. Yesterday I phoned a widowed friend to have a chat and to wish her a happy new year. We talked for twenty minutes or so. I am only too aware that if I was still married I would probably never have picked up the phone. Why not? Well, for several reasons. The first is that we would probably never have met. She was a distant neighbour who I didn't know when she knocked at my door a week or so after the Golfer died. She introduced herself, refused to come in and said merely that she herself had been widowed three months previously, that she lived at the top of the hill and that if I ever needed help or just to talk, she was there. I was so touched by this kindness from a stranger and over the years since then our friendship gradually developed. Until recently, we had never been in each other's houses, we merely chatted and compared notes as we passed on the road. A few months ago she called me and asked me for some help with her computer and our acquaintance developed into a friendship.

So when New Year approached, I thought of her, especially as the weather has been pretty extreme up there in the Highlands, and called her. She was delighted to hear from me and our conversation cheered us both, I think. I felt better both for brightening her day and for the mutual support we offered. Now, the point of this is that if I had still been a married woman, not only would I never have met her, but that even if we had met, I probably simply wouldn't think of staying in touch. This has been the case for most of the friendships that I have developed over the last four years. Before, when I was a wife and mother, I didn't need girlfriends. I had a few 'coffee' friends - women I liked who I would meet for coffee and gossip once a month or so - but I would never think of talking about anything too personal with them, and I wouldn't need to call on them if I had a problem because I had a husband to fix everything in my life.

The nature of friendship I will keep for another blog post but suffice it to say that I may NEED friends now in a way that I have never done before but that need has developed some genuine and deep friendships that will last a lifetime. It sounds like a trivial thing to say, but it's a sign of the change in my life to say that I get more Christmas cards and birthday cards now than I ever did before I was widowed. When I go to sleep at night, my thoughts are jam-packed with all the people I care about. Before, it was just the Golfer and my son, and that was about it.

I have only scraped the surface of the benefits of living alone, and I expect I'll come back to the topic and express myself a little better than I have done here but let me finish with one thought about a particular problem of being widowed which may make it more difficult to celebrate life alone. One of the most important weapons in defeating difficult times in your life is defiance. "Living well is the best revenge" is a great maxim to live by if you had parents who abused you, if you are made redundant or if your spouse runs away with the postwoman. Putting a smile on your face and trying to use that adversity to recreate a better life, even if at first it's only in defiance to the bastards who have screwed you, is a great way to deal with life's big stresses. However, when you are widowed, it is difficult to adopt this attitude (I'm not expressing myself well here but I hope I'm getting my meaning across - I'll try to write it better one day!) I have heard people say that losing their job, or even getting a serious illness like cancer, was the best thing that ever happened to them, because it transformed their lives. It is VERY difficult to say that in relation to the death of your spouse. In fact, it is unacceptable to say that publicly, even if it's true. Can you imagine what people would say if you came out with the line "Ah yes, the Golfer's death was the best thing that ever happened to me". And yet, that is the task we are faced with when our partners die. If the Golfer had walked out on me, I would have said "The Golfer walking out on me was the best thing that ever happened to me" with gusto and would have been determined to make the rest of my life as good as possible, if only to stick it to him. But he didn't walk out on me, he died on me, and I find it almost impossible to suggest out loud (even if I think it sometimes) that I am having a happier life BECAUSE he died.

I think that adds an element of difficulty to the widowed person's job of rebuilding their lives. So, for those of you out there in the same boat as me, go easy on yourselves, you are making progress, and you will be happy again. Happy New Year to all you Rosehips and Prunes out there and I wish you all a wonderful 2010!


Moon'sLark said...

Hi Fiona!
Thanks for coming by my blog and saying hi, I love the sense of connection that these sorts of projects create!
I'm looking forward to getting to know a lot of people and find more interesting blogs!!
I'm gonna come back and read more of your blogs... unfortunately they don't let me at work :)

Dia said...

Hi, Fiona; I came over from the 'happy book' post (having done several of Jamie's books - & checking the new one out :))
I think you expressed this 'dilemma' very well!! I so thought of several widowed friends, one a DEAR in her 80s who comes to a book group with a group of us 'younger (50s-60s) gals - she has a friend who became widdowed about the same time, I think they had also recently met, & they've been a great support for each other.
I also think of my mom, who had a friend who 'resented' her hubby for dying on her!! My mom, who married 'late' (37) so had worked & lived on her own earlier, took 'widdowhood' much more graciously . . . I know it was still incredibly hard!
I'm long divorced, & enjoy a number of the things you name about living alone; & find your comments on 'needing' your friendships more now to be true for myself as well! Life is such a strange adventure!!

becky n said...

Hi Fiona, I've found you through the Happy Book, too; and am happy to make your acquaintance! You put your situation very well - and I think most of us can understand exactly the mixed feelings you experience in these situations, without judging you as a mean or heartless person! And thank goodness, there are some good things!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Well, there are a lot of insights here and I certainly think they are pretty unique to widowhood. Nicely stated, all!

I agree, in particular, that we can't say how much better our life is even though it HAS to be. It's REQUIRED to be, as part of our "healing."

But I still don't see why this would preclude you from dating. Can't you have it all, dear? You can have a partnership that's fully respectful of your individual needs and desires.

When you're ready, that is.



Monkey Mind said...

I think my mom went through something very similar when my dad died. She missed him and their life together but I noticed that some things changed that never would have if he had been alive.
She painted the house and went to Europe (4 times now) and she figured out how to do things that dad always took care of. She would never admit it (she's from a generation that absolutely deferred to men on everything) but she'e way more capable, interesting and independent than she ever was with my dad. He was a good man and he loved her but there remained some subconcious dependence that she didn't have any interest in shaking off until he was gone. When she had no choice, the game changed. Thank you for sharing your journey - it takes courage to say things that are truthful but may be uncomfortable. I wish you all the best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fiona. Your post touched me so much. What a brave year you've had. I wish you much happiness in your new home. I'll be back next week to see how you're doing. Take care and here's to happiness.